If One More Fish Flies By…

Let every person be subject to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and those that exist have been instituted by God. (Romans 13:1)

What Are We Saying With Our Decals?

Most Christians are aware of Romans 13 and most Christians understand that this passage states that we are to obey the governing authorities because God has put them in place.

However, it seems as though many Christians (if we are to judge by the decals on the bumper) do not care what the authorities say…at least on the roadways.

I have begun keeping count each day on my way into work and home from work. I bet at least a dozen fishies fly by me on my 12 mile journey from home to work or work to home.

Admittedly, I do not always adhere to the speed limits, but I am at least aware of the speed limit and adjust my speed accordingly whenever I catch myself going over the limit. What makes it worse here in Louisville is many of these vehicles have seminary parking stickers on them as well! I really wonder what kind of witness we are giving to those around us.

Must We Be Convicted?

Speed Limit

Now, I confess that I used to think that the more people I passed on the road in my pick-up truck, the more people I would “witness” to with my “Real Men Love Jesus” bumper sticker.

However, I, too, was convicted that my speeding was wrong. I guess my real question problem is why do we need to be convicted that breaking the speed limit is wrong? Why can’t we just look at Romans 13 and realize that this also includes obeying the speed limit?

Therefore whoever resists the authorities resists what God has appointed, and those who resist will incur judgment . . . Therefore one must be in subjection, not only to avoid God’s wrath but also for the sake of conscience. (Romans 13:2, 5)

One Said blogger, Todd Young, wrote a post on how this has worked out for him since he began to make a concerted effort to obey the speed limit due to a John Piper sermon he listened to on his way into work. I call attention to him not to single him out but because he is a friend of mine and I have been exactly where he is in these two posts regarding this issue.

I almost made the comment, “Yeah, it is amazing that there would be a benefit to obeying God” on Todd’s most recent post. Then I remembered that I, too, needed convicting. I guess I am always amazed at how easily we can rationalize sin (yes, I believe speeding is sin because of the Romans 13 passage) and go along with the flow and think everything is alright. May it never be!

My Prayer

I realize some call this meddlin’ but it seems to me that we all (myself included) need to think before we try to witness with our bumper stickers. My prayer is that those who call Christ Lord and Savior will begin witnessing to other drivers, not as I had done by speeding, but by our standing in stark contrast to the rest of the world by obeying the laws.

Even more, I would pray that those who are representing their respective seminaries with the parking decals or stickers would do the same. After all, we are supposed to be the future leadership of Christ’s bride, the church.

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24 Responses to If One More Fish Flies By…

  1. Stan McCullars says:

    Good post.

    I started driving the speed limit when I purchased a hybrid two years ago. My primary motivation was fuel economy. Shame on me. It is amazing how many Christian bumper stickers I see blowing me off the road and aggressively weaving in and out of traffic. My wife tells me that’s what I used to look like, except I had no bumper sticker.

  2. Brent Hobbs says:

    Maybe I’m simply justifying my stubbornness here but let me play devil’s advocate. For one, the flow of traffic around Louisville is easily over 65, despite the 55 MPH speed limit. As mad as you might be for the fishes flying by you, I think you’d have a whole lot more angry drivers (Christian and non) if they began to see a lot of fish-clad cars doing exactly the speed limit and causing more congestion than already exists.

    Two, how many laws do we ignore that are still on the books from years past and are not enforced? Do Christians need to obey the so-called “spitting” laws and other outdated laws that have simply never been removed by a legislature. I’m talking about rules that no police officer would enforce. The fact that they are not enforced seems to me to illustrate that this is not simply the black and white issue that some are trying to make it: If it’s a law, then you must obey it. I would say that if it’s not being enforced, then the authorities have given their consent, at least in some way, for the law to be violated. In the same vein, I doubt any cop would stop someone for doing 2 MPH over the limit. 5? Doubtful. 8? Maybe. 11? Likely.

    I think if you’d drive a certain speed past a cop who you knew was running radar, then its fine to drive that speed. They design speed limits knowing that people will drive slightly faster. I wish they would make realistic speed limits and then strictly enforce them. It would take a lot of question out of this whole issue. But that’s me.

  3. Brent,

    That is the response I expected to get because it is the same response I get over and over and over ad infinitem. Should we obey the law that states a man must walk 25 feet in front of the carriage (pulled by horses) with a lantern in order to make sure of safe travel (as is the case in my hometown)? Obviously not, but if we were to follow your logic then where do we draw the line? Suddenly, stealing is alright…but wait, I highly doubt you would rationalize that.

    The “flow of traffic” makes no sense, either. That is the whole “if your friends jumped off a bridge, would you?” argument. Do a test. Watch those on the roadways and Interstates. Notice, especially on the roadways (like Shelbyville and Bardstown roads), how many of the drivers that fly by you end up at the next stop light just in front of you or those who are on the Intertate, especially in Louisville, get off at the same ramp you are getting off of and they are right in front of waiting to turn.

    1-5 mph over is rarely looked at because many speedometers fluctuate between too slow and too fast depending on tire size and such. However, if you are intentionally going 9 over so that you are not going 10 over, then you know you are doing wrong and you are doing what you think will keep you from getting caught.

    As for the traffic jam created by “slower traffic” doing the speed limit, have you ever thought that maybe it was the faster cars creating the appearance of traffic? For example, when a lane is closed, what do you think causes the traffic jam to be worse than it needs to be? I would argue that it is all those driving up the lane that they know is closed just to get that much further in line so they can get through the work zone that much quicker.

    I guess my thought is that as a Christian, we know that there is no sin that we can hide from Christ. Why should we then try to get around something as silly as a speed limit because we know they won’t pull us over at 64 but will at 65? I have heard it said that many Christians want to know what they can get away with and still not sin. They call it having a relationship with the fence. Most of us would say that is wrong. Why wouldn’t it be wrong in this case as well?

    Please do not think I am attacking. I still find myself sometimes zipping along mindlessly speeding. I also remember fighting this battle when I would drive. What really got me thinking about it more was that if there is no excuse we can give to Christ as to why we should be allowed in heaven, then why do we feel we can excuse or justify our actions in this regard as well?

    Terry Delaneys last blog post..God is Love

  4. Stan McCullars says:

    Brent,
    Thank you for your willingness to play devil’s advocate.

    I think you’d have a whole lot more angry drivers (Christian and non) if they began to see a lot of fish-clad cars doing exactly the speed limit and causing more congestion than already exists.

    If people are going to be upset because I’m obeying the law, there’s not much I can do about that. Call me cold hearted, but I really don’t care either. When I first became a Christian, I had people upset with me because I wouldn’t smoke dope with them. Oh, well. Lately I’ve have people somewhat irritated because I’m against pirated music and software. Oh, well.

    Perhaps Christians could become known for obeying the law rather than just blending in. On a side note, perhaps we could become known for loving our wives rather than just blending in with high divorce rates.

  5. I totally agree with the spirit of this post. I was convicted about this issue a couple of years back and make an honest effort to try to drive the speed limit every time. I would also say that it is especially worse when I see people with “pastor” stickers in their back windows flying by me! Since I have a “pastor” license plate on the front of my car, it really makes me think twice about how I am driving. As Christians, and ministers of the Gospel especially!, we should be modeling for others what it means to avoid the appearance of all evil.

    Michael Wilhites last blog post..Does Titus 1:5 REALLY Prove Plural Eldership?

  6. Brent Hobbs says:

    Terry,
    I appreciate your response to my first point, but I’m not sure we’ve moved the debate along any further. I guess the point I would make is that we both agree that there are some laws that needn’t be obeyed, we just disagree over where to draw the line.

    You mention the lantern law, then ask if we should obey it. “Obviously not, but if we were to follow your logic then where do we draw the line?”

    I throw the same question back at you. Where do we draw the line in your scenario? Its somewhere between holding a lantern and speeding, but where exactly is it; and what principle are you advocating for knowing what laws are ok to break and which ones aren’t?

    The principle I’ve advocated above was its ok to do anything you would do if someone in authority were watching you. What principle are you suggesting? We’ve already agreed that “If its a law, then it must be followed” is not a satisfactory answer.

    And to Stan,
    I think we need to be careful in this debate to distinguish between morally neutral actions (driving a particular speed) and morally wrong actions (drugs, stealing, etc…). Morally wrong actions are still wrong regardless of the law. Driving 65 only becomes wrong because there is a law that states as much. In a 65 or 70MPH zone, there is nothing wrong with driving 65. It is the law that makes it wrong, and this whole debate is about the applicability of speeding laws. So I don’t think your analogy of drugs and pirated music are appropriate for our discussion.

  7. Stan McCullars says:

    Brent,
    I think we need to be careful in this debate to distinguish between morally neutral actions (driving a particular speed)…

    I would argue that speeding is not a morally neutral action. We are commanded in Romans 13:1-2 Let everyone be subject to the governing authorities, for there is no authority except that which God has established. The authorities that exist have been established by God. Consequently, whoever rebels against the authority is rebelling against what God has instituted, and those who do so will bring judgment on themselves.

    To willfully drive in excess of the speed limit is to rebel against authorities that God has instituted. As such, it is to rebel against God. To rebel against God is not a morally neutral action.

    You also stated: I don’t think your analogy of drugs and pirated music are appropriate for our discussion.

    I was referring to your comment: I think you’d have a whole lot more angry drivers (Christian and non) if they began to see a lot of fish-clad cars doing exactly the speed limit and causing more congestion than already exists.

    My point was that the possibility of upsetting non-Christians should not even enter a Christian’s mind when considering whether or not to break the law, be it speeding, drugs, or pirated music/software. I think that is completely appropriate.

  8. Brent – Actually, we do not agree where to draw the line. If you look at my example of the lantern before a horse, that is taken care of by what we call today “headlights.” Generally there are not many horses on the road (unless you count the ones under the hood of said car with the “headlights”.)

    Ok, sarcasm aside. Most of the laws that you reference are still on the books simply because common sense allows us to know they do not have to be obeyed to this day for similar reasons as I was pointing out above (even though it was sarcastic). The main thrust of my post was exactly what Stan was saying (for what it is worth, the “Oh well” sounded a lot like me) in regards to Romans 13.

    Yes, it is illegal to go 70 in a 65 because the law says it is so. If we follow your line of reasoning in that it is illegal simply because the law says it is, then what if the same state passed a law stating that it was alright to litter “because it creates jobs?” Sure, some would be pleased with the passing of that law, but does that mean we as Christians should be excited? Is littering a moral law? Maybe not, but I think Stan is correct in that the breaking of any law (especially intentionally as in the case of setting you cruise 9 over) is a breaking of morals because as per Romans 13, the laws are put in place by men whom God has put in a position of authority.

    It seems as though we as Christians need to have a more radical understanding of what it means to be a Christian and to seek to glorify God in all that we do. As I said before, I am amazed that we must be convicted to keep certain rules when others seem as though every should keep them regardless of beliefs. As Christians, I think we should meditate on Romans 13 and really ask God in our quiet and prayer time if our intentionally breaking the speed limit is right or not.

    Michael – To my shame, I have actually found myself a few times wishing I did not have any decals or stickers on my car so I could drive like a maniac…especially when the knucklehead in front of me just cut me off! Also, I have actually found that if I am speeding it is usually on Sunday morning! There have been numerous times where I looked down at my speedometer only to see I was speeding. It is frustrating to say the least.

    Terry Delaneys last blog post..So Much to Say…

  9. Pingback: Be The Fruit » Blog Archive » Are you driving today? Are you speeding?

  10. Terry – I understand about the decals. Sundays are my worst day for speeding too because I am always in such a rush it seems like. I even used to joke around sometimes that the drivers not letting me pass them were “satanists” because they were hindering the preaching of the Gospel! How sad it is that I could justify my sin like that!

  11. Brent,

    I do have one other question regarding your driving past the authorities at an acceptable speed. Who is our standard for right and wrong? God or man?

    Terry Delaneys last blog post..Is the Week Over Yet?

  12. Tony Kummer says:

    Did anyone notice the related posts on this one?

    I guess “fish” is a low density keyword here.

  13. By the way, those laws that prohibit behavior that is immoral in and of itself are called malum in se (from the Latin), while laws that prohibit behavior for some administrative reason are called malum prohibitum. An example of the former is murder, while an example of the latter is the state’s requirement of a fishing license. Speeding, in our case, is malum prohibitum.

    For legal purposes, the distinction only matters in assessing whether a breach is justified by necessity. Speeding to get your pregnant wife to the hospital may be justified; killing another driver because of that speed, or speeding to be on time for church, may not be.

    At one time I justified speeding by my willingness to suffer the consequences if caught, refusing to slow down when other drivers warned me that a trooper was around the bend.

    Has anyone else ever heard someone ‘thank God’ for making them slow down just before a trooper hit them with radar? Or thank him for causing them to stop any sort of illegal behavior just before being caught red-handed?

    Not to stir the pot any more than it is already roiling, but what about seat belt laws?

    Rob Faircloths last blog post..WHAT TO INCLUDE IN CHILDREN’S CURRICULUM

  14. Stan McCullars says:

    Rob,
    Not to stir the pot any more than it is already roiling, but what about seat belt laws?

    I am amazed at the amount of government intrusion into our lives. I find that frustrating.

    Anyway, I’ve been wearing my seat belt (while driving, not continuously) since 1985. I have also required all passengers in my vehicle to wear their seat belt as I don’t want them to become a projectile and hurt me. It being a requirement by law has never come into play for me since I’ve been doing it for so long.

    Great question.

  15. I wear my seat belt as well. How about helmets? I ask that one because my life was actually spared by not wearing a helmet in an ATV crash. However, that does not mean I am an advocate for not wearing a helmet–had I to do it over again, I would have had a helmet on. God had other plans though and I am here today to stir pots! LOL.

    Terry Delaneys last blog post..Is the Week Over Yet?

  16. Stan McCullars says:

    On a motorcycle, I typically wear a helmet. It’s not required in Florida. It shouldn’t be required anywhere else as far as I’m concerned. I would certainly advise anyone riding a motorcycle to wear a helmet.

    Helmets on bicycles are a different story. Let kids be kids. Enough of the babying of our kids already. I think bicycle helmets are for wimps. ;)

  17. I think bicycle helmets are for wimps.

    Stan,
    In high school, I jumped a ten-speed bike off a five-foot ramp. Aerodynamics were not in my favor, and I and my bike rotated 180 degrees to inversion (upside down). The first thing to land was my head. According to my friends (what friends encouraged me to do this?) I got up and walked home, which I do not remember. Concussion, anyone? Wimp or no? Just plain stupid? I vote the latter.

    I agree with your earlier point that such things as speeding and declining to wear helmets are not morally neutral actions. The problem, as these discussions demonstrate, is both deciding when the authority itself no longer deems adherence necessary (lantern before the horse/spitting on the sidewalk/speeding 2 miles over the limit) and also at what point the authority has become so oppressive as to warrant civil disobedience.

    Is speeding ever civil disobedience? Or not wearing helmets? What about driving on ethanol when corn shortages are forcing other countries into food shortages and starvation?

    The line may be bold, but it never seems to be painted in the same place twice.

    Rob Faircloths last blog post..REVIEW: The Five Dilemmas of Calvinism

  18. Tony Kummer says:

    RE: Government intrusion:
    I’ve always imagined the Roman government that Paul was dealing with much more intrusive, especially when they killed people like Peter & Paul.

    None of that diminishes the text Terry quotes above.

  19. Thanks, Tony…killing IS generally more intrusive and oppressive than a speeding ticket; context, as they say, is key.

    Just to be clear, though, are you saying there is no time for civil disobedience? Corrie Ten Boom defied the Nazis; civil rights protagonists defied segregation laws; colonists defied the Brits (the success of which we celebrated three days ago).

    And let us not forget the Egyptian midwives who defied the edict to kill Jewish babies; Daniel’s breach of the prayer laws; the fiery furnace; the lion’s den; Rahab’s lie; the wise men disobeying Herod; and that Peter and Paul were killed in large part precisely because they defied the authorities (religious or otherwise).

    The text is not dimished (Romans 13:1-2), but neither is it absolute. After all, the next verses teach “For rulers are not a terror to GOOD conduct, but to BAD. Would you have no fear of the one who is in authority? Then do what is good, and you will receive his approval, for he is God’s servant for your good.”

    Sometimes governing authorities go wrong, and reverse the order, punishing the good and praising the bad. Is there still an absolute requirement to submit? If so, we condemn many believers.
    Speeding may not be the appropriate point at which to resist, but that does not eliminate the possibility that there is such a point.

    (BTW: sorry for the CAPS: how do y’all do the italics and bold and stuff?)

    Rob Faircloths last blog post..REVIEW: The Five Dilemmas of Calvinism

  20. Rob…if you look below where you type in your comment there should be some HTML tags. Basically, if you want to italicize something you would do the following without all the spaces: < e m >type immediately after the ‘>’ sign and then type the ‘< ' immediately after your last word you want italicized< / e m > and that would look something like this.

    I am just learning this stuff. Tony is the html master.

    Terry Delaneys last blog post..Catching Up on the Lord’s Day

  21. Brent Hobbs says:

    I hadn’t check back in a while.

    Stan writes:
    “Brent,
    I think we need to be careful in this debate to distinguish between morally neutral actions (driving a particular speed)…

    I would argue that speeding is not a morally neutral action. ”

    Stan, you missed my point completely. Did you read the whole paragraph? I never said speeding was morally neutral. In fact, I said the exact opposite. And your pirated music example still doesn’t speak to the issue. The people are not mad at you for obeying the law.

    And Terry writes:
    “Brent,
    I do have one other question regarding your driving past the authorities at an acceptable speed. Who is our standard for right and wrong? God or man?”

    Terry, you and Stan are both talking before you listen. My whole point is that as to driving a particular speed, man (specifically the legislature and police) is the authority and therefore also our standard. Driving any particular speed is morally neutral. It is the law that makes it wrong. And if the law is not enforced, then I argue we have no obligation to obey.

    I haven’t read any response to this specific argument yet. Still only, “It’s the law, so obey it…” which completely begs the question. The telling point is your quickness to tell me that 9 MPH over is definitely a sin, but you haven’t spoken nearly as forcefully about 4 MPH over.

    I mean, if we’re being consistent, and you’re right, then anyone who normally sets their cruise control at 57 in a 55 is living in habitual, unrepentant sin. Are you willing to go there? Maybe you are. I’m just asking.

  22. Stan McCullars says:

    Brent,
    First, a point of order. You stated: Stan, you missed my point completely. Did you read the whole paragraph?

    And again: Terry, you and Stan are both talking before you listen.

    In reading Terry’s original post and his comments above, it seems to that is gives thoughtful responses and does not speak before listening. As for me, while I’m not as thoughtful as Terry, I did read all the posts above and attempted to make a reasoned argument. I concede your point that you did NOT say speeding was morally neutral. Still, I think you have misrepresented both of us.

    Now to the issue of speeding. You stated in your last post: Driving any particular speed is morally neutral. It is the law that makes it wrong. And if the law is not enforced, then I argue we have no obligation to obey.

    The law is enforced. That I can guarantee you. Do the police (and other officers of the state) pull over everyone who is speeding? No. They simply do not have the resources to do so. What do they do? They utilize the resources at their disposal in the most efficient manner they can. They have certain time needs for murder investigations, theft investigations, breaking up domestic disputes, paperwork, meetings, etc… In addition to these and other responsibilities they enforce traffic laws. Just because it’s not enforced 100% of the time does not mean it’s not enforced. If anything short of 100% enforcement meant we didn’t have to obey the particular law, then according to your last post we have no obligation to obey pirated software laws.

    You stated: Still only, “It’s the law, so obey it…” which completely begs the question.

    Begs the question? How does it do that? Are we not to obey our rulers? Obviously if our rulers ask us to disobey God we are to obey God rather than men. Traffic laws certainly do not ask us to disobey God.

    You also state: The telling point is your quickness to tell me that 9 MPH over is definitely a sin, but you haven’t spoken nearly as forcefully about 4 MPH over.

    Terry mentioned intentionally going 9 over so that you are not going 10 over, then you know you are doing wrong and you are doing what you think will keep you from getting caught.

    You also state: I mean, if we’re being consistent, and you’re right, then anyone who normally sets their cruise control at 57 in a 55 is living in habitual, unrepentant sin. Are you willing to go there? Maybe you are. I’m just asking.

    Yes. If someone’s normal course of action is to deliberately drive even 1 MPH over the stated speed limit, they are living in habitual, unrepentant sin. I don’t know how you could argue otherwise.

    Paul writes : Romans 13:1-2 Let everyone be subject to the governing authorities, for there is no authority except that which God has established. The authorities that exist have been established by God. Consequently, whoever rebels against the authority is rebelling against what God has instituted, and those who do so will bring judgment on themselves.

  23. Brent,

    I hope you do not think it is you against the world in this conversation. One of my best friends actually agrees with all that your saying. However, I think what is being argued by you, in my estimation, is more of a political argument. “Should the government be able to make speed limit laws and enforce them as they do” would be the question you are seeking to answer. I am not seeking to answer, let alone ask, that question.

    My argument is based upon the text found in Romans 13 where Paul is not debating the politics behind the government. He simply states that we are to obey the governing authority because “there is no authority except from God.”

    So, yes, if you are intentionally setting your cruise control over the speed limit, then you are sinning because you are disobeying God according to Romans 13. If it is sin because you are disobeying God then the act of speeding is not morally neutrally as per the text.

    The speed limit is not in direct contradiction to the Word of God; therefore, there is no call for civil disobedience. You have not answered my question regarding whether or not we should obey the speed limit as Christians even though others do not obey it. The bottom line is, in my estimation, that Romans 13 commands us to obey the speed limit because to not obey the posted speed limit is to disobey God and that is sin.

    Terry Delaneys last blog post..I Forgot to Write This Last Night

  24. Todd Young says:

    Terry,

    I remember you mentioning that you were going to post regarding this topic, but I never saw this post! I think the reason we have to be convicted about obeying the law is because we often fail to be truly discipled as new believers. Many of our teachers and churches fail to think through all the implications of the expectations for followers of Jesus, and thus we, too, fail to see the implications.

    Personally, I’m sure I read Romans 13 several dozens of times without really reading what was written there. Meditation is a lost art, and we need to spend time working through the implications of Scripture. There are so many ways Christians are expected to bear fruit (Romans 12, Galatians 5, etc.), yet how deeply do these passages impact us? We cannot simply race across (or put across for that matter) the surface of the Bible; we must spend time examining the depths as well.

    In my opinion, the typical “Christian” in America resembles a canoe rowing across the ocean, easily tossed by the waves, instead of a nuclear submarine, plunging the depths.

    That’s why I have to be convicted about stuff in the Bible all the time.

    Todd

    Todd Youngs last blog post..How to: Filter the Internet for Free

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